“So You Think You Can Dance” has been around seven years and ratings slipped a bit last summer. I caught up with executive producer Nigel Lythgoe at Fox Theatre over the weekend where he and fellow judges Mary Murphy and Debbie Allen were sifting through the candidates for season 9 in Atlanta.
“I”m always concerned when ratings go down,” Lythgoe said during a lunch break. “The standard of dance went up and the ratings went down. But they only went down a little bit.”
He spun Fox’s move to get rid of the results show in the most positive way possible: “We wanted to reformat the show. We want people to focus on dance. In order to do that is give the results within the show so you don’t have to watch over two evenings.”
Lythgoe wants to maintain the “save for your life” portion where the two dancers with the lowest vote totals dance one more time, allowing the judges to make the final call. He’d also like a group routine as well. And as always, he’d like to introduce new forms of dance.
Lythgoe said he’s working on the format, noting that fans have Tweeted good ideas. “I’m re-energized by it,” he said. But for now, he has an entire season 11 of “Idol” to think about starting January 18.
There won’t be any massive changes on “Idol,” he said. And while he does not say anything directly about “The X Factor,” how he portrays “Idol’ implies what he thinks is different about “X Factor.”
“It strengthens my thought it should be about the talent, not the judges,” he said.
Intepretation: “X Factor” is often more about the judges than the talent.
“What we have is authentic. We are the original.”
Interpretation: “X Factor” lacks authenticity and is a copycat.
“We have a lot of heart and warmth now.”
Interpretation: Simon moved his heartless soul elsewhere – and it shows.
“We have a lot of great talent.”
Interpretation: We sure beat their talent!
He held back on saying if this year is going to be the “best ever” because he says it every year to the point it’s meaningless. They are down to top 42 and it’s not 40, he said, because the judges couldn’t say no to a couple of folks.
“It’s going to be difficult for the judges,” he said, to bring it down to 24 (or whatever the semifinal number is going to be– I didn’t get a specific figure from him.)
He likes how close the judges have gotten, too. “Jennifer is genuinely a bully,” he said, tongue in cheek, “with those two boys.”
What are his thoughts about Ryan Seacrest? “We love him. I want to keep him,” he said.
“He is for my money the best host on American television,” he added.
I watched about six auditions. Last year, I got lucky and saw several that made it straight to Las Vegas. This time, I wasn’t so fortunate. Most of the dancers I saw weren’t bad technically (including a tap dancer) but they lacked personality. Then there was a guy from Winder in a white cowboy hat I guarantee will get plenty of airtime on the audition episode, a former Marine who dances hip hop. Though his moves were limited, he made up for it in spirit. He called his style “cowboy swag.”
The other dancers gave him a standing ovation and rewarded him with the Marine battle cry “Oorah!”
“I wished half the people came up and danced with such passion,” Murphy said.
“You got soul baby!” Allen added.
But does he get through to Vegas, make it only to choreography to see if he has more moves or does he get outright rejected? You’ll have to see in about five months!
Here’s Nigel’s interview:
Here’s my interview with Mary:
And here’s Debbie Allen, who talks about her time in Atlanta shooting the musical “Twist” at the Alliance Theatre in 2010 and a sitcom that never really made it anywhere about a blended family (and whose creators were indicted recently for fraud):
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk